I have been, SOOOOO very busy with the latest Clown Shoes labels that I have neglected this blog entirely. There is no excuse, really. Oh, yes, I have to pay the rent and feed the kid, that IS a good excuse! But I’m taking a moment to rest my carpal tunnel and share with you my latest masterpiece.
This new label, completed a few weeks ago, celebrates the my hometown, the Hub of the Universe, the birthplace of the Revolution, a place where sports are religion and beer is our sacramental wine, Boston. It’s also a place where we have trouble with pronouncing certain consonants, thus, the name, Supa Hero IPA.
As you see, our hero, Captain Masshole, flies over the Charles River and past a number of Boston landmarks, in his trademark trackpants and Clown Shoes, beer in one hand, fists at the ready, much like many of our local boys. Originally, the Captain had a chinstrap beard and a little goatee chin action, but unfortunately that made him look like pretty much every guy we know who drinks Clown Shoes Beer, so we gave him a shave and a haircut so he could stand out from the crowd.
The second label is in the works now, Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer. Let it be said, Clown Shoes is the perfect client for pushing me outside my comfort zones. I don’t like horror. I just don’t. I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I like The Lost Boys, but after that, you’re going to give me nightmares. And don’t suggest Twilight, I won’t put you down for liking it, but it’s not my cup of twinkly, virgin tea.
So I’ve been watching a lot of Vampire movies for reference, I am unhappy about this, I am not sleeping well. The good news is the art should be completed this week and then I’m going to see the Muppet Movie as a happy chaser to this bloody cocktail!
And that’s what I’ve been up to lately while I neglect this blog. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Every Christmas my son and I assemble a compilation CD for our family and friends. They’re bootleg CDs of songs from my personal collection, thus the name, Bootleg Christmas, and to make things more cohesive we choose a theme every year. In 2009, I was learning to play ukulele, so the theme was Bootleg Beach, Christmas songs from warm climates, beaches, islands, deserts, South America, you get the picture. The illustration is a Josh Agle (Shag) inspired tropical scene where Griffin and I serenade a hula dancing Santa by the light of a campfire and a full, Pacific moon.
Last night, my friend, Cathie, invited me and my son to join her and her daughter for the Sox vs. Jays game at Fenway. We had amazing seats, first base line, 7th row, you could almost touch the players, it was too much fun.
About halfway through the 4th inning my phone started buzzing with Facebook posts and text messages all related to this article on Boston.com. The post was referring to a kerfluffle on Beer Advocate in which a contributor to the site launched a full out rant aimed at my client, Clown Shoes Beer, and their sexist, racist labels. The diatribe resulted in a 350 comment thread in which people both agreed with the original post or defended Clown Shoes’ right to be, well, clownshoes. It also included a comment in which the original poster quoted me out of context and made it seem like I agree with her. The thread was locked before I got home from the game, leaving me with no opportunity to defend myself.
So, this is my response to the question, “Are Clown Shoes’ labels offensive?” Sure. Why not? Offensive is a subjective term. If you look at the labels and find yourself offended, there you go. Do you have the right to say so? Abso-friggin-lutely! Shout it from the highest mountain, or your Twitter account, or your brothers’ website, whatever your bullhorn is, use it, loud and proud. Here, let me loan you a sandwich board and a bell, you can be offended Town-Crier style, I got your back.
I get it. There are things that offend me. For instance, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding of lyrics, I cannot listen to Sublime’s Wrong Way without getting offended. Politicians who proudly misunderstand the basic facts of American History offend me—mostly because they’re too lazy or stubborn to find out the right answers and correct themselves. Those ASPCA commercials with Sarah McLaughlin offend me because they always run them in the middle of South Park, or Tosh.O and then I feel guilty for laughing when we come back from commercial. So, if someone looks at the illustrations I’ve done for Clown Shoes and finds them somewhat distasteful, then you go on with your bad self and be put out. It’s your right.
My labels for Clown Shoes—which were named Best Craft Beer Art of 2011 by PourCurator.com—are not illustrated with a sexist intent. For instance, a Tramp Stamp is a tattoo placed on the lower back of a woman to emphasize her sexuality. In Germany, they call it, Arschgeweih, meaning, “Ass Antlers.” Can you imagine if we had named a beer Ass Antlers!? We have nicknames for these tattoos because they have a purpose. The woman who has one is confident in her sexuality and she is enticing the viewer to appreciate her. A woman who is comfortable in her own skin and likes how she looks is a sexy woman. Sexy is not sexist. In fact, sexist is rarely sexy.
Brown Angel is a mix between pin-up girl, Blaxploitation goddess, and hip-hop diva. She was inspired by Pam Grier in Coffy, and Rosie Perez dancing to Fight The Power in the opening of Do The Right Thing. These are powerful women, not victims, and just because they have ethnicity, doesn’t mean the label is racist any more than appreciating a Bettie Page pin-up makes one a white supremacist. As a woman, and an artist, I have a hard time with either of these images being labeled chauvinistic. Chauvinism is an attitude of superiority over the opposite sex. I’m not designing woman who are inferior, I’m designing women who celebrate who they are. So, who is bringing the inferiority? The viewer? The offended? It’s a complicated question.
Finally, and this one made me guffaw, I mean seriously spit take—Clown Shoes Lubrication. Why is Lubrication offensive? Well, first, we’ve got the name. It’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s having some fun, but the label copy pulls it all together, “Lube? Hey, get your mind out of the gutter. Social lubrication, people coming together to unwind, is what we’re talking about.” This is not a dirty joke for the sake of being dirty. Lubrication is an American Black Ale, dark as oil, but at only 6% ABV it’s one of Clown Shoes’ first sessionable beers. The social lubrication marketing gives you an idea what you’re getting in the bottle.
Second, the illustration is apparently offensive because of the placement of the gas nozzle. Next time you fill your tank, take note of how high you hold the nozzle, I’m guessing it’s not up by your belly button unless you drive a Hummer. Apparently, our critics saw not a dispenser of fuel, but a “dong.” Yes, their words, not mine. I went to art school. I was taught to say, “phallic symbol.”
Now, let me tell you, when I designed this I was inspired by Ed Ruscha’s gas station paintings, 1950’s sci-fi robots, and by those old Texaco commercials with the jaunty hats and ties. That’s it. You get your car lubed at the service station and a tin-man requires lubrication, it works both ways. The client actually wanted to go sans-illustration for this beer, but I convinced him that it would be inconsistent with the brand and that I had a great idea! Never in my wildest imagination did I think this label would inspire such vitriol! But when you have dong on the brain, you see dong wherever you go, I guess. Ironically, robots don’t even have sex that way, there’s a lot more welding and screaming of 0s and 1s.*
So, there you go. If you find your way to my website because I illustrated some beer labels that started a tiny tempest, you will see that I put a lot of thought and research into offending people and selling beer. I also design yearbooks for elementary schools and websites for stores your mom would probably like. I appreciate this opportunity to respond to my critics and I encourage you all to drink good beer with a sense of humor and an open mind.
The first in a series of illustrations commissioned by TJX. Intended for sale as wall hangings at HomeGoods home furnishing stores, this illustration depicts a country meadow with a folk art influence.
The final landscape illustration for TJX is a city skyline at twilight. This series was intended to compliment each other, so I approached the city from the point of view of the residential streets on the outskirts of the downtown. That allowed me to include homes and trees of a similar scale as the country or the farm, and present the buildings as part of the grand landscape, like the mountains or the sky.
Presenting my latest label for Clown Shoes Beer, Lubrication American Black Ale. The launch party is tonight at Foundry on Elm in Davis Square, Somerville. Foundry is new to the area, I’m not sure when it opened, but it feels like it’s been in the Square for years. It is classic and comfortable, with elegant seating and lighting, and a slight edge that lets you know that the food will be approached with an artistic eye and creative twists. Also, they serve poutine! So, yeah, you know I’m giving Foundry the thumbs up.
Now, back to the label. This is only phase one of the Lubrication package design, as Lubrication will be the first Clown Shoes beer available in 12 oz. bottles. The smaller bottles will come in a 4-pack carrier and in cases.
The 12 oz. label presented a new challenge. Because all of the previous Clown Shoes beers were only released as 22 oz. bombers, the labels had a lot of real estate and that allowed me to develop a direction that was very illustration-centric. The 12 oz. bottle labels are considerably smaller, but require a lot of the same information, legally speaking. Featuring a prominent illustration would not be practical, yet, the illustrations are part of the brand we’ve established for Clown Shoes.
To further complicate matters, Clown Shoes is planning on releasing the Clementine White Ale to a 12 oz. bottle, too. The Clementine label was illustrated and designed over a year ago, when they only released 22 oz. bottles. Whatever solution I developed for Lubrication would have to be retro-fitted to work with Clementine and any other previously released Clown Shoes bombers.
The solution was to design a “shoe-centric” text only label for the 12 oz bottles that would incorporate a single identifying mark of the 22 oz. label, for the Lubrication it’s the white, horizontal “grill lines,” for the Clementine, the swirling unpeeled oranges. Then, on the 4 pack carrier, the illustrations will be expanded beyond the small windows on the 22 oz. bomber labels to fill one full panel of the box. This kept our illustration-based branding visible on the cooler shelf, but gave us a simplified, scalable solution for the 12 oz. labels and by extension, the case box design which could only be 2 colors.
I can’t wait to post photos of Phase 2, the 12 oz. bottles, the 4 pack carriers and the case boxes. We’re also getting custom crowns, bottle caps to you and me. They’re on a ship in the Atlantic at the moment, but they’ll be here in a few weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to crack open this bottle of Lubrication and pour myself a tall, dark and handsome pint of ale.
Dreamday at Stonehedge Farm was an event to thank major donors to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. kor group of Boston created the branding and marketing for Dreamday at Stonehedge Farm featuring original acrylic paintings by local artist, Ann Marie O’Dowd (see cover illustration.)
As production design manager at kor group, I was charged with managing production and installation of all of the event signage and providing production support to the design team, including creating this fun and colorful illustrated map for the event program.
One of the cool things about having a graphic designer for a parent is you get a pretty spectacular yearbook for your graduation from elementary school. I designed the book, illustrated the cover and photographed all the students and faculty. But more importantly, I suggested a digital printing solution that allowed the books to be produced under budget. The quality of the books were such that the parents were able to sell many times more sponsor ads than in any year previous and the additional income negated the need for the children to hold a car wash to pay for their class graduation party.